Amir Khan the Ambassador

By Lem Satterfield for Boxing Fanhouse

NEW YORK — WBA junior welterweight (140 pounds) champion Amir Khan had just scored Saturday night’s 11th-round knockout over Brooklyn’s Paulie Malignaggi in the biggest victory of his career.

In doing so, the 23-year-old, 2004 Olympic silver medalist not only out-boxed a pure boxer, but he mixed in an assortment of power shots — namely crisp, counter and over hand rights behind double- and triple-jabs — with a compliment of damaging left hooks and uppercuts.

When the fight was over, the English-born titlist had won the approval of the roaring crowd of more than 4,412 that filled Madison Square Garden’s 5,000 capacity WaMu Theater, and left the trash-talking Malignaggi beaten, battered and bloodied in his own hometown.

Khan had Malignaggi pinned on the ropes and was nailing him with several unanswered blows when referee Steve Smoger came to the rescue, calling a halt to the bout at 1:25 of the round.

“I was nervous, this being my first time in America. And I was walking into the theater, I could hear a lot of boos. But at the end of the fight, they started cheering for Amir Khan because I won them over with my style. I want to make all of my fights like this one,” said Khan, who rose to 23-1, with his 17th knockout and his fourth, consecutive victory.

“It’s my style. I’m explosive. I’m entertaining to watch. I’ve got speed, and I think I made a statement. I think that now there are a lot of American people who are interested in Amir Khan,” said Khan, who was coming off of a December’s first-round knockout of another Brooklyn resident, Dmitry Salita (30-1-1, 16 KOs).

“I’d love to fight some more over here. I want to save some big fights for the United Kingdom,” said Khan. “But I’ve had my American debut, and it’s the best feeling fighting in America. It’s a dream come true. I’d love to go to Las Vegas and have a big fight over there too.”

But as admirable as Khan’s in-the-ring efforts had been against Malignaggi, it is the maturity, poise and grace with which he handled the out-of-the ring distractions that may yet make Khan even more of a cross-cultural, crossover icon.

There was an irony surrounding Khan’s visa issues, which overlapped with the recent actions of alleged Times Square bombing attempt suspect Faisal Shahzad. Together, the two situations caused concern heading into Khan-Malignaggi.

Khan is a practicing Muslim who was born in England, but who is of Pakistani descent, while Shahzad is a native of Pakistan who became a U.S. citizen a year ago.

In early March, long before Shahzad’s actions on May 1, which resulted in a failed attack after he left an SUV rigged with a homemade bombing device in Times Square, Khan and his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, became aware of the fighter’s issues concerning the obtaining of a work visa.

David Itskowitch, chief operating officer of Golden Boy Promotions, said that Khan entered America under the country’s visa waivers program “which, for all intents and purposes,” allows its holder, “a tourist visa, which is good for ‘X’-amount of days.”

“Khan’s status while he was here training was one of a tourist while not earning money,” said Itskowitch. “In order to change your status to someone who is working, you have to leave the country, get a visa, and, then, come back.”

Khan had been holding workouts at Wild Card Boxing Club, in Hollywood, Calif., owned by his trainer, Freddie Roach, a three-time Trainer Of The Year.

But Khan was forced to leave the United States, and has been preparing for his American debut against Malignaggi (27-4, five KOs), while training under Roach in Vancouver, Canada.

“I was in training camp. Then I had to go to Vancouver to get my visa. And my visa took a long time. We had to move the whole training camp there. My head was all over the place, so I had to stay mentally strong,” said Khan, who was not granted the work visa until nine days prior to the fight.

“When I finally got my visa, I had to go back to Los Angeles again, and the, fly to New York. So I was flying a lot. I was traveling all over country, and I got a visa for 23 days that it took me three weeks to get. That could have gotten to me, but I had to work very hard not to let it bother me,” said Khan.

“I have to thank Freddie for flying all over with me,” said Khan. “One thing about Freddie, he looks at his fighters like they’re his kids. He was standing beside me all of the way through, so I have to thank him for that.”

Although Khan laments the notion that suspicion may have been heightened due to the comparisons between himself and Shahzad, he also embraces the opportunity to perhaps be an ambassador.

Khan wants to use his boxing skills to influence American opinion.

“What I want to do in this game is that, you know, I know that a lot of the Pakistani people and the Muslims are getting a bad name in the United States with the bombings and the terrorism and stuff, but not all of us are like that. Look at Amir Khan. I’m an English boxer. I’m one of the faces of boxing,” said Khan.

“And I want to do the same thing that I’ve done in the United Kingdom. I want to put a new face into boxing. I want to bring the Muslim community into boxing. Whenever you’re at an Amir Khan fight, if you come to the United Kingdom and watch me fight, you look into the crowd, and you see all different colors,” said Khan.

“You see the Asian, Chinese, Pakistanis, Muslims — you see everyone. I want to do the same in the United States,” said Khan. “As more people get to know Amir Khan, you’ll see more of that. Hopefully the Americans will love my style and I can do the same here. I want to fill out the stadiums and the arenas like I do in the United Kingdom.”

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  1. Amir is a great fighter and alsoa great role model for us all. Would really like to see him fight Ricky Hatton, now that he has come out of retirement!

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